Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How Do You Say Goodbye When You Can't Let Go?

This is how I will always remember Savannah.
Smiling, superior, divine, and splendid.

Savannah and her constant companion, Ambrose.

It is with a heavy heart and an ocean full of tears that I bid my dear girl goodbye yesterday.  

She has been my shadow, my companion, and my labor of love for 18 years.

Can't you tell who was always the boss?
She was always the brains of the operation,
Ambrose was the brawn of the bunch.
She could somehow convince him to do all sorts of naughty things
that I know he would have never dreamed up on his own.

Her favorite position to sleep in.
I always knew that she was content and happy when she faced the world belly up.

Savannah's typical view of the world,
"I'm in command and nothing can challenge my perception of this."

Savannah knew that I was her mom, she was at my heels at every step,
but I was never her favorite person,
Noah always was.

That smile was omnipresent.

The official Savannah and Ambrose family portrait.

If anyone doubts that pets share similarities with their parents all you had to do was see the two us of together. She was a stubborn, determined, un-waveringly demanding force until the end. Her body tried to continue to do the things that it had always done, but as the last few months stole her abilities she remained a reckoned fighter to get up, move on, and refuse assistance. She was tired, although her body had surrendered to the requirements of freedom to move, and she was pushing on to do things that her tiny frame could not answer to. It was impossible to keep her happy any longer. If she would have allowed me to carry her to eat, drink, and continue to live I would have done so. But her pride and resilience became the burden of her bodies inability to perform even the most basic of tasks. She was unable to walk anywhere except outside. She couldn't lift herself to get to the water, and her frustration manifested into screams of aggravation and exasperation. Even if I was holding her, she demanded her freedom, and I couldn't assuage this.

I have had to address the queries of on-lookers unable to understand that I knew her well enough to know when it was time to let her go. I was often left to defend my decision to others who I hope and believe had her best intentions in mind, but it made the weight of my decision more burdensome and more perplexing.

I knew yesterday when she tried dozens of times to get up and be her normal unencumbered self I knew I had to say goodbye.

She is one of the hardest cases there is. Her heart, lungs, organs, skin, bones, and body were in almost perfect order. She just landed that one last straw on her tired back and lost the ability to move herself around and she was furious about it.

I understood, I empathized, and I had spent the last year trying and exhausting every option for her. But there was nothing left to try. Nothing I could offer her, and no way to dodge the angel calling her any longer. Her body had surrendered, although she fought to accept it, and I had to let her go. There were no options left.

Every day has been a strict regimen of offering at least 4 options to eat every time she woke up or every 4 hours. I walked her through the coldest winter days and nights to try to salvage as much muscle mass as was possible. The terrible painful oxymoron of being a vet is knowing what lies ahead of each possible turn in the road and the binding ineluctable obligation to be the hand of healing, the parent, the paladin, and the hand of death. It wasn't until she was gone that I truly realized how small and fragile she had become. I don't even know how she lasted as long as she did on her bony body.

My husband held my hand as I let her go. It may be inexcruciably difficult to make the decision, but sitting next to her and sending her body away is the hardest task of my life. Joe offered to take her to the clinic, to spare me the pain and agony, but I told him that she would want to be here with us, and surrounded by those who love her the most. He said he was trying to protect the one he loves most, and all I could do is reply "that it's not about me."

He dug her grave, and we had a frigid cold service as he placed dozens of iris bulbs over her. She is at peace and I am left behind feeling grateful to have had 18 years and a lifetime of memories.

The house is ghostly quiet a day later. I have been holed up at home sobbing, replying with "Thank You's" to the dozens of friends posting their sympathies on Facebook, and doing the loads of laundry that removing her area of the hallway took up. I have four bags of towels, sheets, blankets, harnesses, jumpers, baby monitors, booties, baby food, cheap dog and cat food, pee pads, and throw rugs to donate.

I took down the tie out in the front yard.

Threw the repeatedly heavily cleaned after being heavily soiled rugs into the burn pile.

And spent the next day at home re-arranging every room of the main floor that had been "Savannah proofed."

I hear her whimper in the far corners of this now silent house, and feel compelled to follow my routine of spending every sleeping and waking second wondering if she needs me. There is the gnawing guilt, the sharp pain of grief, and the appreciable conditioning of a person who deals with loss everyday.

And I look around at Charlie, Jekyll, Jitterbug, Wren, Magpie, Oriole, and Strawberry who are all quietly sleeping and realize that they need me. I have had all of them on my back burner for a year while I took care of Savannah. I have some making up to do...

Jekyll and Charlie

Jitterbug, Wren, Oriole
and the puppies in their beds at the end of our bed.

My Wren.
Who cries with me,
who came over to me and Savannah last night while I said my goodbyes.
She sat next to us and kissed Savannah on the head.
She is the one who keeps checking on me,
and who reminds me that I don't have forever to dwell on this,,
there are bellies to be rubbed.

Savannah left a big impression on many people. I am grateful for the friends who are so supportive and generous with their kind words and strong shoulders.

Pets with Santa and VMRCVM 2003

If you are struggling with the loss of a pet, there are many wonderful people who can help.

Association For Pet Loss and Bereavement

"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.." Tennyson

Savannah's tale;

Update; Valentine's Day 2016. I miss my girl everyday. Those little velvet ears.. the patter of feet behind me, and the insistent demanding love and companionship. I was so fortunate to have shared so long with her. But I miss you always.. Love mom.

* End note; This post has spelling and grammar errors that I cannot fix.. I cannot stop crying long enough to convert the raw script into a polished edited post. I apologize.. This would require an unbiased third party.


  1. She is not whimpering, she is running & flying & howling. She is free & she is keeping an eye on you.

    1. Thank You Barbara!

      I know she is happy, but I also know her well enough to know that she is somewhere scheming something..she never worried about me..and honestly when she was in her prime, I rarely worried about her...if she wanted something she would figure out a way to get it..determined and stubborn, and passionate..

      two peas in a pod!

      Love you!

  2. i'm crying FOR you as i read this. i hope your heart can heal soon, in its time.

    run free, Savannah.

    1. Hello Laura,

      It is so comforting to think of my little furry beagle running and playing. She used to do this sporadic burst of energy burst where she would run, romp, and then dart back and forth...just running with pure carefree delight..it was the happiest most heart filling thing to watch..she was blissfully happy..I spent everyday trying to return that to her..

      p.s. I'm crying too..

      With love,

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you,

      I really appreciate the love and support..Savannah was such an incredibly strong determined dog..I admire her perseverance and never giving up..I always owed her the same.



  4. it is amazing the raw gaping wound our beloved pets leave in our hearts...I know words don't begin to touch on making you feel better,there are no words that can heal the pain...so I am sending you a prayer,and a quiet understanding,and a hug...

    1. It really is amazing how much we love our pets, and how much it hurts to lose them.

      But I suppose you can't have one without the other, so I will refocus my time, effort, and love on the other pets we have, my patients, and my purpose of helping pets at every turn of this road I travel.

      I am so grateful for the prayers, support, and understanding..thank you from the bottom of my sad heart.

      those hugs, prayers, and these friends across the miles are such an incredibly helpful thing..


  5. Krista, I share your tears of sadness and send you big hugs to help you through this horrendous time. It was a long and difficult journey for Savannah and you did a tremendous job taking such good care of her, You gave 110% which is more than perfect and more than she could ever dream in her lifetime. Choosing to say goodbye meant putting Savannah's comfort needs before your own which is the most selfless act and shows so much courage and love for her. Take care and be strong, my friend.

    1. Hello,

      Thank you for letting me share my love for my girl with you. She was such a strong determined tour de force. In many ways she taught me so many things. I am so fortunate to have found her, had so much time with her, and been able to help her live a long happy life.

      I grieve for the loss, and I am grateful to have so many friends to help shoulder the loss.

      Thank You,
      with love,

  6. My heart goes out to you, as I know how you feel!

    With Jasmine, we always knew one thing; once she lost the ability to go on her walks, do the things she loved to do, to her her life was over whether she'd continue on or not. She would be very unhappy. We too searched and hope for last Hail Mary solution, but there wasn't one. And we set her wonderful, amazing spirit free of the body.

    A point comes when the most loving and selfless thing to do is to let go. Through all the hurt we felt, we knew that Jasmine was free. And so is Savannah. (((hugs)))

    1. Thank You Jana,

      There is great comfort in knowing that there are so many others who understand that having a pet both captures your heart, shares our lives with us, brings us such joy, and be so painful to bear when they are gone.

      I am trying to focus on all of the many blessings and wonderful time we had..every pet and every pet's parents should be as lucky as we are.

      I am sure that Jasmine and Savannah are cohorting together..oh, the trouble that those two could be getting into..(it's probably good that we aren't watching)..that Savannah could mastermind some trouble!

    2. Savannah and Jasmine = big trouble in Paradise! :-) I wonder which of the two is running things.


  7. Krista, Deepest sympathies for the loss of your sweet Angel Savannah. I have followed your journey with her; your great love, compassion and selflessness an example for the rest of us living with an elder dog. May 18 years of memories fill your heart with some smiles. Prayers.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. I take great solace and feel truly lucky to have had such a long wonderful journey with her.

      I lost a big piece of my heart, but I am so grateful that I was able to give it, and share it. Having pets is such a precious gift, for whatever time we get with them.

  8. My heart breaks for you. It was clear from your blog how lucky she was to have you as her champion. Given what she was going through, doing all you could to keep her as happy as possible took amazing amounts of work, which it was clear you took on without hesitation because that's what she needed. That we all would have someone in our lives who would care for us so passionately and compassionately through the end of our days. I am so sorry for your loss and my thoughts are with you.

    1. Thank You so very much..she was a true labor of love,,I am finding myself lost now without her. I was so used to getting up at night, planning my day around her, trying to address every need, etc..I am just trying to get used to the silence and space.
      i know that she was so loved, and that her life and her story touched others.

      I am also so grateful to all of the fellow pet lovers who understand and extend their sympathies..thank you again

  9. So sorry to read of your loss of sweet Savannah. I know the struggle too well of wondering when is right and 2nd guessing yourself every step of the way. You gave her a long and happy life and shared many wonderful memories. Focus on that time and on the family that needs you now.

    1. Hello,

      Thank you for your kind words, your encouragement and the advice..I do believe in my heart that we did everything that we could, and that it is time to take care of those she left behind..i am such a fan of all that you do,,keep up the good work and thank you for saving and improving dogs lives..

      with love and fondness,


  10. I'm so very very very sorry for your loss. My prayers are with you and your family. Thankfully Savannah had you as her mommy and that you were able to give her a wonderful life.

    1. Thank You Kim..

      She was a wonderful dog..and I miss her terribly..I truly appreciate your note.


  11. It always sad when yo lose a pet that you have had for a long time. It is like losing a part of the family. I have a friend that is blind and his dog is starting to get old. I hope that he does alright when he has to try to move on. I love dogs though so I can't imagine living without them around.

    Jason| http://www.gulfportveterinarian.com

  12. I'm so sorry to hear about Savannah. She was truly a pack leader par excellence. She was a good friend to people and dogs alike. I will always have fond memories of her. I am glad to have shared time with her.

    She will be missed,


    1. Hello!!

      I am so thankful that you found me!!! I think of you so often! Wherever you are please get in touch. I would love to catch up..call me at the clinic anytime 410-692-6171..leave your number I'll call you back..

      I miss you Miguel..thanks for sending you condolences..that little Savannah she was a force of nature.

  13. Krista, I'm so so sorry for your loss. You were a great parent, guardian and friend to Savannah and let her go when you knew you must. Like Barbara Wells Sarudy said, Savannah is running free through the fields, no longer encumbered by her ailing body, happy, and watching over you. She was very beautiful to the end.